United Premier Soccer League Brings Promotion And Relegation To The USA

Few subjects in US club soccer trigger more passionate debate than promotion and relegation.  Now a prominent league in the Southwestern US is going to bring pro-rel to these shores.  The United Premier Soccer League gained some notoriety this year from the performance of two of its clubs in the U.S. Open Cup.  Two UPSL teams reached the Third Round of tournament.  The L.A. Wolves defeated USL’s Orange County Blues in the Second Round,  leading to an all-UPSL Third Round matchup against Orange County’s La Maquina.  La Maquina won that battle, and then took L.A. Galaxy to the brink in the Fourth Round before falling to the MLS side in extra time.  To put that in perspective, no USL team made it past the Fourth Round this year and only two NASL teams did.  These results demonstrate that the UPSL is a league with real talent in it.  

Midfield Press was able to catch up with UPSL Commissioner Yan Skwara to discuss the UPSL’s decision to implement promotion and relegation for the 2017 season.

Yan Skwara, UPSL Commissioner

Yan Skwara, UPSL Commissioner

1. What led you to bring promotion and relegation to the UPSL?

Nobody’s done it.  We figure that we know it is the right thing to do, so let’s be the leader and let’s do it.


2. How will promotion and relegation work within the UPSL?

We’re going to emulate the way it is setup in Europe and the rest of the world.  You have the top teams in the second division (Championship Division) moving up and the bottom teams in the first division, called Pro Premier Division, moving down.  The UPSL has established a clear format with rules and regulations in place for all clubs.

3. Can you share a little about that format and how you will determine which teams will be in the first division?

Sure.  In this case it’s always work in progress but I can share the framework we have established.

Any team that complies with Pro Premier rules and regulations will be permitted to be in the Pro Premier in the first season (we have 60 clubs plus or minus, so about 20-25 may qualify).  This will include certain professional standards the clubs need to be able to meet.  Due to the weather in the Southwest, we play two seasons per year over 12 month period.

To continue in the Pro Premier Division beyond the first season, a team must qualify for the playoffs.  About half the teams in the league will qualify for the playoffs.  So of the perhaps 30 teams will qualify for the first season of Pro Premier, through this process that number will be winnowed down to about 15-18 teams going forward.  After the second season and beyond, promotion to Pro Premier Div is granted to the top two finishers in the second division as long as they meet the necessary Pro Premier standards.  If the top second division team did not meet the professional standards, for example, we might promote the second and third finishing clubs as long as they did meet the standards. Naturally, relegation will mean the bottom two teams in Pro Premier would move down to make way for the two promoted teams.

This is subject to change but this is where we are today.


4. You recently expanded the UPSL into Colorado.  Do you see the league moving beyond the Southwest, perhaps into the Northwest or even further eastward?

The goal is to be a National league.  Future expansion right now seem to be coming from all directions which is a good thing, but above all it has to be the right fit with the right expansion groups and personnel.


5. We see USL pushing for Division 2 status from USSF and as a consequence, some of the long standing pro teams in smaller markets may be leaving that league.  Do you think the time is right for an officially sanctioned D4, which might fill the gap between leagues like the UPSL/NPSL and leagues like USL/NASL?

Today there is no unified system in place or a master calendar at the Federation level.  Everyone plays when they decide when they want to play. There is a distant connection between the teams and the Federation.  I’ve always believed the Federation should oversee all of the leagues. That’s how it is done elsewhere.  The national federations protect against conflicts of interests.  Since that isn’t the case in the US, we need to play a role as a league that thinks more as a federation would and not as a profit center. Profit is important but it certainly can’t get in the way of what you are trying to accomplish in terms of growing the game properly, so that there is connectivity between the teams across all levels and a true national system exists.


6. Are you collaborating with any of the other regional leagues like American Soccer League in the Northeast or the Premier League of America in the Midwest?

This is a natural process as we grow. There will be points in time where it will make sense to sit down and discuss the synergies of working together.  We’re hoping that happens in the future, because that will just connect the country that much faster.  Not everybody is on the same page we are, but we can’t deter from our mission and our direction.

Former LA Galaxy midfielder Paolo Cardozo now plays for the L.A. Wolves (UPSL)

Former LA Galaxy midfielder Paolo Cardozo now plays for the L.A. Wolves (UPSL)

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